“Here’s a guy and everyboy’s there, right? Up to him to put down what’s on everybody else’s mind. He starts the first chorus, then lines up his ideas, people, yeah, yeah, but get it, and then rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets IT- everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows its not the tune that counts but IT.”

–Jack Kerouac, On the Road

This quote from the classic Beat writer inspired Phish’s name of their 2003 festival.  They didn’t make any bones about hiding it, they had a large wooden plaque in the concert grounds at Limestone with this quotation on it.  It is a vivid description of a saxophonist hitting his sacred stride and transcending his art form- reaching that place, that indescribable place that we all know so well.  What makes Phish such an other-worldly band, is that they seem to have a secret recipe for IT.  Four mere humans who can tap into IT far more easily than the most any band, these are the superpowers we have come to adore and expect from Phish.

IT is the reason we go on tour. IT is the reason we fly cross-country for three days or less.  IT is the reason credit cards are abused for hotel rooms, rental cars, airplane and concert tickets.  IT is the reason we have driven the path of each and every every highway in this vast land.  IT is the reason you are reading this blog.  IT is the reason for it all.

Those quiet moments of your soul, when the band is soaring into alternate universes and the energy enters you like osmosis.  There is no effort expended, you are just a part of IT, flowing through you, as IT fills up your reserves of inspiration, energy, and adrenaline.  This is what we quest for, from Tennessee, to Iowa, to Michigan, and beyond.  These are the moments during which the band and audience together have peak experiences, as all is forgotten in the majesty of the moment.  We forget who we are, where we are, why we are, and for just a moment, we simply are.  Not to sound too hippie, but it is these time-and-spaceless moments that carry us, propel us, and allow us to realize that we are but a sponge for this magic if we allow ourselves to be.

IT is the reason there there is a lot scene.  IT is the reason people cut the 3 for $5 deal.  IT is the reason we have made up a ridiculous number of excuses for missing days of work.  IT is also the reason so many of us took the “non-four year” path in school.  But regardless of anything you missed at home, IT was always worth it.  It was a no brainer.

As Mike Gordon has explained, IT is about that place where you are “half awake and half dreaming,” somewhere muddled between your conscious and subconscious self, letting go- releasing.  Allowing the moment to move you for once, as opposed to the opposite.  Literally, “surrendering to the flow.”  Once you let go, a whole new world appears, a world more colorful and more vivid then anything you remembered.  Sure, it sounds like Willy Wonka, but would you argue it’s not true?

IT is the 8.10.97 Deer Creek Cities.  IT is the 7.6.94 Montreal Reba.  IT is the 12.30.95 Harry Hood.  IT is the 12.6.97 Tweezer.  IT is the 4.3.98 Nassau Roses.  IT is the 12.1.94 Salem Split.  IT is the 6.14.00 Fukuoka Twist.  IT is the 3.20.92 Binghampton Antelope.  IT is the 12.30.93 Mike’s.  IT is the 7.21.99 Star Lake My Left Toe.  IT is the SPAC Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.

Gazing up in awe of what is sonically surrounding us, IT is that elusive feeling, that when once we experience it, we must seek it out again and again.  More addictive than a drug, IT can direct your life if you’re not careful.  Have you ever heard of a junkie driving five to eight hours per night through three states just to get another fix?  When Hampton was announced, and it sparked a middle of the night party across the nation- that stuff doesn’t happen if this whole Phish thing isn’t the most transportive experience since Doc Brown’s flux capacitor.  Found nowhere else in the musical world, the adventures on which these four take us rival those of the greatest improvisers of all time.  And IT is all happening again.

IT is why there were 100,000 ticket requests.  IT is that feeling of weightless connection when nothing else exists as you dance with your eyes closed.  IT is why we feel childish “Christmas Eve” excitement the night before a show, and IT is why we have butterflies all afternoon before it finally happens.  Because we know that before long we will to be re-attached to the shooting star of Phish, leaving a trail of cosmic debris in our collective wake, as we hold on with one hand and reach our other out to catch IT passing by.



This is the last show before the tour ending weekend at Sugarbush in Vermont.  The second night of a superb two-night run, this second night was captured on soundboard as it was broadcast on FM radio.  First set highlights feature the bizarre It’s Ice and a raging Split.  The second set gets going with a crazy Maze, peaks with a gargantuan Stash, and winds down with a gorgeous Hood.  The encore on this night, was the then-rare, Funky Bitch, dedicated the heads on tour- closing this last night in amphitheatres with something special.

I: Ya Mar, Llama, If I Could, All Things Reconsidered, It’s Ice*, Prince Caspian, Split Open and Melt, Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Wilson, Maze, Theme From the Bottom, Uncle Pen, Stash, Strange Design, Acoustic Army, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg**

E: Funky Bitch#

*Jam in middle featuring Fish on vacuum and Mike playing with an electric drill. **With “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Smoke on the Water” teases. #Dedicated to the tourheads as an always requested but never played tune.

(All photo’s from Michael Copeland’s (Meaty) Phish Photo Compilation)

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